A month or so ago on a Friday, the starter motor on my car decided to stop working. I ended up having to have a tow truck pick it up and take it to the garage where they had to drop the exhaust system to replace it.
I had my work laptop and decided to work from home. The amount of work I got done in one day out of the office was huge. One of my team told me that he had received more emails from me in a day than in the last few weeks.
I have long maintained that with good training and support, there are many benefits to having people work from home at least some of the time, but having started a number of businesses from home, I’m also aware of some of the pitfalls.
As outlined in this article from Smart Company, research has shown that given the right environment, significant productivity gains can be made and also reduction in costs both for the employer and employee, something a number of companies are seeking as they look to reduce their investment in office space by introducing hot desks and open plan environments.
One of the findings though, which I have also mentioned in previous blogs is the feeling of isolation from colleagues, aka the water cooler, which is an important part of work, both in socialisation and the feeling of belonging to a tribe of sorts with a common purpose.
A plus for cities is not only the reduction of office space and the associated costs, but also a reduction in traffic congestion and the resultant air pollution are fringe benefits.
Four key factors to me that need to be considered are:
1. Technology. Unified Computing allows people to take their deskphone and computer network with them, but they do need to have enough pipe, or internet access at home in order to work to the same level as they do in the office.
2. Mutual trust. As the article says, many managers worry about whether their staff are working or taking advantage of the situation to do non work activities out of sight of their manager. Plenty of people abuse their position IN the office and in fact as this research showed people got MORE work done.
3. Training is really important and I’m talking about the psychology of working from home. When I set up my first business from home, I had to navigate a rocky road of explaining to my family that when I had the door to my home office closed, I was at work and needed to focus on the job. I would make quality time available to hear about what happened at school or discuss other important non work things, but I also had to focus on the job, which paid the mortgage our bills and grow . I didn’t get sick leave, holiday pay or anything else. Working for an employer is a little different, but the bottom line is the same, when you are at work, you are being paid for your time.
4. You do need to socialise. If you work for an employer, you need time in the office for formal and informal meetings, but you don’t need to be there every day. The smart thing to do is try to organise your meetings for certain days. This is easier said than done and does require culture change, but it can also improve productivity and even allow you to look at the purpose and structure of meetings. It’s amazing how you look at meetings differently when it is your income that’s on the line. The same when your clients are paying for your time.
Telecommuting offers many benefits for those who are in roles where they can work away from the office. It does require strategy and forethought. It does require trust, planning and training. It’s worth some strategic thinking about what the purpose of the office is, which activities are most productive and where.